Talk About Family in Japanese with 60+ Essential Vocabulary Words
Family in Japanese culture is strongly tied to identity and the family unit often functions as a whole.
Traditionally, parents and elders are respected and ancestors are honored.
When you start a journey to learn a new language, family words are often among the first that you learn—and thses familial words are even more important when you’re learning Japanese!
Learn all about the Japanese family and the words you’ll need to know to refer to any of your relatives.
- The Importance of Family in Japanese
- Japanese Family Vocabulary Words
- Familial Terms of Endearment
- And One More Thing...
The Importance of Family in Japanese
Family holds significant importance in Japanese society and culture. The concept of family, known as 家族 (kazoku) in Japanese, is deeply rooted in traditional values. Influenced by Confucian principles, Japanese family structures generally have a patriarchal head and a multi-generational household.
The cultural significance of the family is evident in the 戸籍 (koseki), Japan’s official family registry, which treats the household as the fundamental societal unit. This registry mandates reporting details such as birthplace, date of birth, relocations, marriages, divorces, paternity acknowledgments, adoptions and deaths. Because of this, individuals are highly aware of their family history, hierarchy and genealogy.
There are a few underlying aspects of family in Japanese culture:
- Filial piety: Japanese culture places a strong emphasis on respect and devotion to parents and elders. Filial piety, or 親孝行 (oyakoko), is a traditional virtue where children are expected to show deep respect and care for their parents.
- Family as a social unit: The family is considered a fundamental social unit in Japan. It’s often seen as a cohesive and supportive group and individuals derive a sense of identity and belonging from their family ties.
- Collectivism: Japan is known for its collectivist culture and this extends to family values. Cooperation and harmony within the family are highly valued and decisions often consider the impact on the family as a whole.
- Ancestor worship: Ancestor veneration is a significant aspect of Japanese culture. Families pay homage to their ancestors through rituals and ceremonies, fostering a strong connection between past and present generations.
- Family events and traditions: Various family-centric events and traditions play a vital role in Japanese culture. Celebrations like New Year’s Day, Obon (a festival to honor ancestors) and Shichi-Go-San (a celebration of children’s growth) emphasize family unity.
- Roles and responsibilities: Traditional gender roles have influenced family dynamics, with defined roles for men and women. While these roles are evolving, there’s still a sense of shared responsibilities within the family structure.
- Support system: Families in Japan often serve as a support system for individuals, offering emotional, financial and practical assistance. The elderly are typically cared for within the family, emphasizing intergenerational support.
You can pick up a lot more vocabulary and cultural nuance through authentic media, like the kind you’ll find on FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Japanese Family Vocabulary Words
“Family” and Other Basic Vocabulary
|Giri no Shinseki
|Nenpai no Hito
|Giri no Haha
|Giri no Chichi
|Giri no Imouto
|Giri no Ani
Familial Terms of Endearment
You probably don’t call your mom “mother,” right? You might call her “mom” or “momma,” and younger kids might call her “mommy” or “mama.”
The same is true in Japanese—there are a few ways to refer to your family members when you’re talking to them that aren’t necessarily the “official” terms.
The simplest way to refer to your relatives is by adding the honorifics “-san” or “-chan” to make the word more respectful or affectionate, respectively. For example:
- お姉さん (Oneesan) — Older sister (respectful)
- お姉ちゃん (Oneechan) — Older sister (affectionate)
- 弟さん (Otouto-san) — Younger brother (respectful)
- 弟ちゃん (Otouto-chan) — Younger brother (affectionate)
- じいちゃん (Jiichan) — Grandfather (affectionate)
- ばあちゃん (Baachan) — Grandmother (affectionate)
- おとっちゃん (Otto-chan) — Husband (affectionate)
Here are some more affectionate terms of endearment for referring to and talking to family members in Japanese:
|Literally means "You" but is used affectionately to say "dear" or "darling"
Regardless of your relationship with your own family, learning family words in Japanese is an important step in your language learning journey. From mom and dad to great-grandmother, you now know how to address any of your relatives in Japanese!
And One More Thing...
If you love learning Japanese with authentic materials, then I should also tell you more about FluentU.
FluentU naturally and gradually eases you into learning Japanese language and culture. You'll learn real Japanese as it's spoken in real life.
FluentU has a broad range of contemporary videos as you'll see below:
FluentU makes these native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts. Tap on any word to look it up instantly.
All definitions have multiple examples, and they're written for Japanese learners like you. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.
And FluentU has a learn mode which turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples.
The best part? FluentU keeps track of your vocabulary, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You'll have a 100% personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)